Thursday, December 13, 2012

Basement Floor Paint: The Options

Painting a basement floor is a great way to improve your home without dropping a lot of money.  However, while the project isn't complicated, there are a few things you should know.  First off, as we wrote here, you first must make sure that your floor is even a candidate for paint.  If you've done that and you've determined that your floor can be painted, the next step is to determine which floor paint to use.  

There are many options out there, but you should be aware of fancy packaging and vague marketing promises.  The box may "say" that the paint wears like steel.  It may highlight the fact that the paint is an epoxy.  But understand that not all epoxies are the same.  And that marketing claims can sometimes be made based on a "best case, controlled-environment, scenario".  (They're also quite subjective--as some marketer's idea of what steel wears like is not necessarily what you think steel will wear like!).

So with that said, let's discuss a couple options we have at RepcoLite when it comes to basement floor paint and let's compare these to the standard kits you see at the Big Box Stores.  Hopefully this will give you the information you need to make an informed choice based on your situation.

LATEX SINGLE-COMPONENT FLOOR PAINT
This is a very basic floor paint and offers a number of benefits.  Single-component latex floor paints are incredibly easy to use.  There is no mixing, no catalyzing, no "open time" or anything along those lines.  Simply stir or shake the container before use, pour out, and roll on.  

These paints apply easily, usually cover quite well, and best of all, they dry very quickly and with very low amounts of residual odor.  There are no dangerous fumes to deal with and there's no concern regarding turning off pilot lights and furnaces.  Also, single-component latex floor paints like RepcoLite's AquaTred floor paint are usually more inexpensive than other basement floor paint systems.

On the downside, these paints are probably the least durable of all floor paints.  Yes, a lot of the durability of a particular product is directly related to proper surface preparation, but still, latex single-component paints are best suited for areas that receive only light to moderate foot traffic.  If you're painting a work room or some other area where you'll be using (and potentially dragging) equipment across the floor, this might not be the best option for you.  
BOTTOM LINE:  In comparison to other "Big Box" epoxy systems, these paints are a little less durable.  However, they compensate for this however by offering you ease of use, a quick dry time and a great price.  However, if the room you're working in is simply a storage area or a lightly trafficked laundry area (and you're looking to accomplish the job quickly, inexpensively and with little or no residual odor) this might be perfect.

SOLVENT-BASED SINGLE-COMPONENT FLOOR PAINT
The second option RepcoLite offers when it comes to basement floor paint is our Urethane Floor Enamel.  Like its latex counterpart, Urethane Floor Enamel is relatively simple to use.  No catalyst is required, no "open time", and so on.  All you need is the paint itself, a quick stir or shake, and you're ready to go.  

These paints apply well, self-level beautifully and offer much better absorption than a latex would.  The added urethane in RepcoLite's product provides dramatically increased durability over other "solvent-based" floor systems.  This added fortifier makes Urethane Floor Enamel nearly equivalent in durability to those Big Box Epoxy kits--at a much lower price.  

Urethane Floor Enamel is suitable for moderate to high foot traffic floors and will even hold up (once they're cured) to dragging and sliding of small equipment (bench saws, small cabinets, etc.).  

However, there are some drawbacks.  First and foremost, as is the case with any solvent-based product, there is an odor.  Also, you will have paint fumes to deal with.  You will need to ventilate your room well while working and after you're finished.  Turning off pilot lights and furnaces is also important.  And, speaking from sad experience, if you have a gas clothes dryer, you MUST make sure the fumes are entirely out of the room before using it.  (If you don't, all the clothes you or your wife dries will end up smelling like Kerosene and your wife will make you rewash them.  And will remind you about this experience for the rest of your life.) 
BOTTOM LINE:  These paints are a great option if you can't or don't want to work with an epoxy coating.  They'll provide great durability for almost every basement application at a fraction of the price of the more expensive (and often less durable) epoxy systems.  They do, however, pack a bit of a wallop with paint fumes, so be sure to ventilate well.
CONCLUSION
Painting  a basement floor is a great project.  It's inexpensive, can be accomplished in just a few short hours, and will make a world of difference in your basement.  However, finding the right product can seem tricky for those who aren't familiar with paint and all the new technologies out there.  If you're considering the project, don't just pick up a floor kit at a Big Box Store and roll it on!  Take time and head to a RepcoLite near you for some straightforward advice and information.  We'll help you find the best product for your job and we'll walk you through the proper steps to make sure the product lasts for years to come!  (And if you're nowhere near a RepcoLite, head to a reputable paint dealer in your area.)




Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Concrete Floors: Is My Floor Even a Candidate For Paint?

All concrete floors are different and many variables are at play. Some floors are composed of bare concrete. Some of this concrete is old, some new. Some old concrete floors are clean, others are dirty. Some are dirty, others are filthy. Still other floors are painted. Of those, some are holding up beautifully and others are peeling like a summer sunburn.

All too often, folks wander into a Big Box Store on a weekend and just happen to spot a gallon or a kit of "Floor Paint". They read the can and are informed that after applying two simply coats of this paint to their floor, they'll have a beautiful, showroom basement.

Some buy into this idea and consequently buy the paint. If you're curious how their project ends, head to the websites of any of these stores and check out the reviews for their floor paint. Eight times out of ten, the reviews are bad. And almost 100% of those bad reviews are the result of people painting floors in the wrong way, without the right prep. Some are even the results of people painting floors that should NEVER have been painted in the first place.

So, all that to say, before you rush into a paint job on your basement floor, be aware that there's a level of great deal of information and understanding you need to be able to tackle this project successfully. No, it's not complicated. Yes, anybody can do it. But it DOES take a few extra steps that you're not likely to be hear about at your average Big Box Store.

With that said, let's focus today on the first big question when it comes to painting a basement floor: Is painting my floor even an option?

As we mentioned above, some floors are simply not cut out for a paint job. There are certain situations that simply preclude the option of painting.

If you're wondering about your floor, work your way through the following steps for the following scenarios:

1. BARE CONCRETE (Old or New)

  • A. CURED? The starting point with bare concrete is to determine whether or not the floor has cured for at least 60 days. If it hasn't, wait until it has. If it has cured for anywhere from 60 days to 50 (or more) years, proceed to "B" below.
  • B. TEST FOR MOISTURE: Duct Tape a 2 x 2 sheet of plastic to your floor, secure the edges of the tape to ensure a tight bond, and let it sit for 24 hours. After the 24 hour time frame, pull up the plastic and examine it: is there condensation visible? Has the concrete in that spot darkened? If so, you still have moisture in the concrete and should let it continue to dry. If your concrete is old and still exhibits a moisture problem as evidenced by the plastic test, you should reconsider painting that floor. It has a moisture issue and will definitely result in paint failure. In short, if your floor is old and still exhibits a moisture problem, it's NOT a candidate for a paint job.

2. PREVIOUSLY PAINTED CONCRETE

  • A. PEELING? Examine your painted floor: is it peeling or flaking off in relatively large quantities? Some peeling or chipping can be expected, but if you're seeing large scale failure, that is an indication of a deeper problem. The problem could be a surface contaminant that was painted over or, more likely it's a moisture problem in your concrete.
  • 1. SURFACE CONTAMINANT PROBLEM: If the peeling is relatively localized--a few large areas--it COULD be a surface contaminant. One option would be to clean those spots with a household detergent, let them dry and then proceed to painting (we'll discuss this in a later post). However, be aware, that this is no guarantee. The peeling paint could be caused by a surface contaminant, but it could also be caused by moisture (see below). And, even if it is a surface contaminant, it's very likely that it's in more places than just the spots you see now. You could clean up and fix those spots only to find, within a few months, other spots starting to let loose and peel. This is frustrating and is one of those perfect examples of why the proper prep work is so important! If the first steps are done incorrectly--especially on a floor--ALL subsequent work is affected! 
  • 2. MOISTURE PROBLEM: While the peeling you see could be a cause of a surface contaminant, it's much more likely it's a moisture problem. Moisture can work through concrete in any number of ways, but the important thing to realize is this: if you've got excess moisture coming through your concrete, for whatever reason (unless the floor wasn't allowed to cure 60 days), it's virtually impossible to fix. Painting over the cement will temporarily make it look good, but the moisture will eventually (sometimes sooner, sometimes later) push that paint coating off.
  • 3.  CONCLUSION:  If your painted floor exhibits peeling on a large scale, it's likely not a good candidate for a paint job. However, since it's painted, you will likely want to at least throw a new coat on there. Go ahead and scrape off as much loose paint as you can, wash the floor and rinse it well (we'll discuss this step in a later post). Then you'll be ready to paint. Just understand that your previous paint didn't bond for a reason and it's very likely the new paint will eventually peel as well.
  • B.  SOUND COATING: If your previous coating is holding up well, all you'll need to do is give it a quick wash, a good rinse, and some time to dry. Then it's time to paint.

As I've mentioned multiple times in this post, we'll dig into the washing, rinsing and drying steps in a later post. This first one was meant to help you determine whether or not your floor was even a candidate for a paint job. If it's not, think about carpet or tile or maybe just leaving it alone. If it is, look for the next part of the discussion tomorrow.

Monday, November 19, 2012

7 Tips When Staining Poplar

Very often when folks are at the lumber yard picking out wood for a particular home project, they choose Poplar.  The reason is because it looks beautiful in its unstained, natural form and it's very easy to work with.  It also can be less expensive than woods like Cherry.  And so, many homeowners pick up Poplar and then go to work trimming out their kitchen or living room or building a bookcase or two.  

Now, Poplar is an absolutely perfect choice if your plans are to prime and paint your wood.  Poplar is what we in the paint and stain industry refer to as a "paint-grade" wood.  This means it's perfectly suited for a paint application.  That "paint-grade" classification also means that Poplar is not ideal for staining.  

Poplar is technically a hardwood, but it's one of the softer ones.  This means it will take stain very unevenly.  Stain soaks in and usually looks blotchy and lifeless, dull and generally not all that visually appealing.

Folks who choose Poplar with the intention of staining it to make it look like their more expensive Cherry cabinets face an uphill struggle.  If that's you, here are some tips that may help!  (And just to be clear:  these tips aren't meant to be read as step-by-step instructions.  For instructions, bring your wood to any RepcoLite or Port City Paints store and let us see what you're doing and tell you the best way to get there.  The tips below are just that--tips.  Things to do and be aware of!)

TIP 1:  If you've got the option, don't choose Poplar if you're going to stain the wood.  I know this isn't really a tip to help you stain your Poplar, but it's still the best advice I can give to start with:  don't sink a lot of money into Poplar if you're hoping for beautifully-stained end results.  Oh, you can get a beautiful finish out of Poplar, but it's not as easy as staining a wood that's better-suited for stain, like Cherry, for example.  So, if you've got the option, avoid Poplar for staining.  If you don't--if money's an issue or if you've already purchased the Poplar--read on...

TIP 2:  If you haven't already picked up your wood, start by choosing the darker Poplar.  Poplar generally will come in various shades:  white, a darker yellow or almost grey tone, and then something much more green.  Usually people resonate toward the white Poplar because it looks the cleanest.  Unfortunately, the whiter the wood, the softer it usually is--and the softer it is, the more blotchy the stain will look.  Darker Poplar generally has a denser grain and will take stain much better.  If you have the option, choose the darker wood.  

TIP 3:  Save your scraps!  When you work with the wood, save all the cut-off scraps.  Use these as samples when it comes time to test your stain (or when you need a stain match).  One of the key mistakes when staining wood is failing to test your stain ahead of time.  You don't want to apply stain to your trim only to find out then that the stain or your system for applying it doesn't get you the color you want.  Instead, test the color and the method on your scraps until you're comfortable with the process and are sure that the stain color is correct.

TIP 4:  Bring those scraps into RepcoLite for a custom stain match.  Now, you may be tempted to balk at this step, but if you're working with Poplar, this is a no-brainer.  Sure, you could pick a wood stain off a shelf in some store and hope for the best, but why?  If you bring a sample of your wood and a sample of the color you want to RepcoLite, Port City Paints or Snyder Paints, we'll create a custom stain for you and also work out the process that's necessary to get you there.  THIS IS ESSENTIAL!  Any store can give you a stain, but it takes a place with some expertise to be able to explain and walk you through the actual process of applying it--the various products you might need, the steps you should take and the time you should allow between each one.  

On some easy-to-stain woods this may not be as critical, but with Poplar, there are a lot of variables--a great number of different application techniques that can be employed to get your color.  We'll work with your wood, figure out what must be done, and then give you the details so you can produce the correct look in your home.  So bring the scraps to us and let us help.

TIP 5:  Be aware of a product RepcoLite manufacturers called "Softwood Sealer".  This is a wood conditioner that is applied before you stain and which serves to seal up the porous wood to minimize or eliminate the blotchy appearance.  This sealer is applied with a brush and then wiped off with a rag.  It can be left to dry anywhere from 15 minutes to 24 hours depending on how porous the wood is and what type of look you desire.  If you have your stain custom-matched by RepcoLite, we'll tell you how long to let this sealer dry before you stain.  If you don't, and you're flying solo on this project, make sure you use those sample boards from step 3!

TIP 6:  Purchase a wiping stain or a gel stain--not a penetrating stain.  Wiping stains will give you a little more control over your color and penetrating stains will simply soak in too quickly and too deeply (even with the softwood sealer), producing a blotchy end result.

TIP 7:  Finally, (to repeat):  sample, sample, sample!  Use those cut-off scraps from step 3 and test your stain until you're comfortable with the process and the method.

Staining Poplar isn't easy--the nature of the wood is constantly working against you, making it tough to achieve a beautifully-stained finish.  But, with that said, you can still accomplish a great end result.  It just takes a little more work and a little more know-how, but it can be done!  And once more, let me encourage you to stop out at any RepcoLite, Port City Paints or Snyder Paints store (Indiana) for expert advice!  We've been helping people do this for years--let us help you!


Thursday, November 15, 2012

Paint Screw-Ups Anonymous

"My name's Dan and I'm a recovering Prep Work Skipper."  

If there were support groups for those of us who consistently mess up paint jobs, that's how I'd introduce myself every week.  

See, I do a lot of things right when it comes to a paint job.  I take the time necessary to pick the colors I really want (usually).  I amass the necessary tools before I start.  I buy quality materials and paint.  I do many things right.  

However, what I routinely screw up is this:  I skip or skimp on the prep work.  Every time.  It's like an addiction.  An addiction to skipping prep work.  I mean really, that's got to be one of the dumbest sounding sentences I've ever written, but it's the truth:  I hate prep work when I paint and so I skip it.  And then, inevitably (and by inevitably, I mean ALWAYS) it comes back to bite me.  Inevitably (always).

And so I'm turning over a new leaf. From here on out I'm going to make the following changes to my painting methods and practices:

RESOLUTION NUMBER 1:  I will no longer simply roll around or over the nails that are stuck in my wall.  This usually messes up my roller, creating a weird divot that repeats over and over on my wall, frustrating me; or, it creates drips on the wall or floor that I don't find until after the paint has dried.  And that always makes me profoundly sad.  From now on, I will remove those nails ahead of time.

RESOLUTION NUMBER 2:  I will patch the nail holes left in my wall when I implement Resolution Number 1 above.  And I will patch them with the proper spackling compound AND will let that compound DRY before I try to SAND it.  (Because I've tried to rush this and sanding only partially dried spackling results in results that make me profoundly sad.)  To give myself the proper time to accomplish these spackling and sanding tasks, I will have to tackle this aspect of the project ahead of the day that I plan to paint. This will require planning and discipline, and I resolve to practice both.

RESOLUTION NUMBER 3:   I will no longer tell myself that my walls are clean enough and do not need to be wiped down before I paint.  I will accept the fact that I do not regularly clean the top corners of every room and that even though I style myself as a clean and tidy person, there is a good chance that random cobwebs may be there.  I will take the necessary 20 minutes to wipe away those cobwebs so I don't end up rolling into them later with paint and then spreading them over my walls.  

RESOLUTION NUMBER 4:  I will no longer let myself believe that "scuff sanding" is a great idea, but that I really don't have time to do it right now.  I will take the necessary 10 minutes to scuff sand a dresser before I prime and paint it.  I will scuff sand my woodwork before I paint it.  I will scuff sand all shiny surfaces EVEN IF I'm using a primer that says "no scuff sanding necessary."  I will remember that there are no shortcuts.

RESOLUTION NUMBER 5:  I will no longer do everything else right--buy the right paint, buy the best tools, choose the right colors--only to screw the project up by skipping the prep work.  I will admit that an extra hour or two is worth all the extra work and frustration and money I've cost myself through the years by skipping prep work.  I will do the proper prep work, no matter how boring it is, so that my project looks as professional as possible when I finish. In short, I will no longer convince myself that certain prep-work projects are worthwhile, but that I simply don't have time for them.  I will make time for prep work precisely because it is so worthwhile.

Those are my resolutions.  I'll probably screw up from time to time, but I'm going to give it my best shot from here on out. How about you?  Anyone else out there who routinely skips the prep work stage only to be burned in the end?  Anyone else out there ready to circle up, admit your addiction to hating prep work, and start the recovery process?  The recovery group is open....

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Fifth Wall

Has this ever happened to you:  you walk into the paint store for paint and then spend the next three days or a week or more agonizing over the color chips you brought home?  You hold them up to every piece of furniture in the room.  You lay them on your carpet, on your end table.  You try to picture them large scale--covering your walls.  You debate between one shade and a slightly darker shade.  And then, finally, after all the debate and analysis and agony, you pick the perfect colors.

You make your way to the paint store, order a gallon of one and two gallons of the other and then, almost as a side note, you grab a gallon or two of ceiling white and call it good.  

Do you see the problem here?  The mistake?  It may not be obvious, but it's this:  we put huge amounts of energy and thought into our wall colors and don't give our ceilings the time of day.

Next time you paint--change that line of thinking.  Your ceiling isn’t just a ceiling--it’s a fifth wall.  And, as such, you shouldn’t necessarily just roll white paint up there.

If you're looking to make an impact in your home, putting color on a ceiling is a surefire way to do that.  And the reason is simple:  it's extremely rare. 
 
Most folks forget about their ceilings when it comes time to paint and as a result, most ceilings are forgettable.  

Change that in your home by rolling a color up there.  Just keep this in mind:  the darker the color you put on the ceiling, the lower it will make those ceilings feel.  This can be great in big, high-ceilinged rooms.  Rolling a color on your ceiling that’s a shade or two darker than your wall color can go a long ways toward making your room feel cozier, warmer, more inviting.  A darker color on your ceiling will draw your eyes downward, bring down those big open spaces, and create settings that feel more personal, more intimate.

Lighter colors on the ceiling will make the room feel a little more expansive, a little more open.

However, there’s something very interesting to realize here:  many folks understand this concept and they figure that painting those ceilings white will really serve to open the room up.  However, think about this:  if you’ve got a medium toned color on your walls, no matter what shade, a white on the ceiling can often produce a very sharp distinction between the walls and the ceiling.  This sharp distinction, this high contrast between walls and ceiling, can often lead people to conclude that their wall color doesn’t work--that it needs to be repainted.

Look at the picture above.  The green on those walls is a strong color.  However, the room works because the ceiling is a soft tan. It’s not a dark ceiling--definitely not dark in comparison with the walls--but it’s dark enough to create a nice balance in the space. 

Imagine the same room with a white ceiling. In fact, you don’t have to imagine it, look at the picture below.  That’s the same room with  a standard white on the ceiling and the whole mood of the room changes.  The stark white on the ceiling makes the green on the walls feel harsh.  Many times, folks would paint a room like this, think they love that green, only to be back later for new paint because the color’s just too strong on the walls.

Now, I admit, the green truly is a strong color--but you can minimize it’s strength, tone it done, control it a little better, by putting a color other than white on the ceiling.

All that to say:  don’t forget about the fifth wall in every room--your ceilings.  You can put some color up there to make a room feel more inviting, to make it feel cozier, or even to tone down the visual power of a wall color you really love.  Keep it in mind.

Friday, October 26, 2012

12 Screwdrivers for $1: What Could Go Wrong?

I'm cheap.  I've probably written that before, but that doesn't matter.  I'm so cheap, it's legitimate to write it again.  But that cheapness has it's limits.

Several months ago, I learned a tough lesson in the world of Cheapness.  I was working on a project in my kitchen and I needed a small screwdriver to unscrew and remove about 12 tiny screws.  After scrounging in my basement work room and coming up empty, I decided I needed to travel to the tool store.  

Reluctantly I did.  My little wad of crinkled dollar bills was in my pocket and I planned to run in, grab the screwdriver and get back home to finish the project so I could go outside and play and have fun with the kids.  

However, something happened:  on my way to the tool store, I drove past a dollar store, and my wife announced that we needed to stop there so she could pick up some this or that.  So we stopped.  And as she made a beeline for the different items she needed, I wandered.  

And do you know what happened?  I wandered into the tool section.  (I hesitate to call it a "department" because we were, after all, in a dollar store).  Anyway, we wandered into the tool section and I found, sitting on the shelf in a bright, shiny plastic package, a set of 12 screwdrivers.  The price tag?   Exactly 1 U.S. Dollar.  Plus tax.  

Well, if you're me, that 12-pack-for-just-1-dollar-deal is just too good to refuse.  So I snatched it up, dropped it on the counter and promptly paid my $1.06.  All the way home, I bragged up my find to my wife.  Oh, I knew the tools weren't the best, but all I needed to do was remove 12 screws.  And I had 12 screwdrivers.  It's impossible that I could fail, right?

Riding on cloud nine, I pulled into the driveway and marched into the house ready to tackle my project.  And of course, you already know what happened.  The first screwdriver broke on the third twist--the shaft separated from the handle.  No problem.  I had 11 more.  And I'd planned on this.   No Sweat.

But then the second and third screwdriver broke before I'd removed that first screw.  And I started to get nervous.  I mean really?  Could I possibly break every single screwdriver in a 12 pack before I'd unscrewed 12 screws?  Could such a think happen?  Surely, no!

Sadly, yes.  They all broke.  I still had 6 or so screws to go when I threw the last screwdriver into the garbage.  Frustrated, I drove to the tool store, dropped $6, came back home, and about 2 hours after I'd started, I finally had everything done.

A project that should have taken 10 minutes max ended up taking a couple of hours (when you add in all the driving and waiting in line and so on).

In the end, it taught me a good lesson:  there's a time and a place for cheapness.  But there's also a time and place for purchasing quality materials.  Dropping the extra money right up front is sometimes the best money-and-time-saving decision you can make.  It was that way with those screwdrivers and it's also that way with paint.

See, so often people think paint is paint.  Good paint isn't any different from cheap paint.  At least that's the thinking.  And when people who think there's no real difference in quality see that quality paint is about $8 more per gallon, well, their decision is basically made for them.  They buy the cheapest paint they can find and then work their way through the project.  In the end, they get the walls covered, but they usually put the brushes and rollers away heaving a sigh of relief that the terrible, horrible job is finally done and they walk away assuming that painting is a pain.

However, it's not the painting that's the pain.  It's the paint.  When you use a cheap paint product, you may not realize there's a difference between it and a quality product, but that doesn't change the fact that there is.  High quality materials roll onto your walls easier, with less work.  They don't drip and spatter all over the place.  They cover and hide much better.  They go farther.  They wash up and hold up better and they don't need to be touched up as often.  

A good paint versus a cheap paint can often take at least 1 less coat and will usually still be looking great on your walls when the cheaper paint is begging for a repaint.

And that's the point to think about:  buying the better paint right in the beginning is, by far, the better value.  Sure, it may (in an average living room that takes 2 gallons of paint) cost about $16 total dollars more than the cheap paint, but think of the benefits:  the paint will apply easier, cover better, hide more, drip less and last longer.  You'll apply fewer coats, spend less time, and won't need to deal with drips and spills.  

$16 more on an average room will save you at least an hour or two of work and will provide you with a better product that will wash up, resist wear and need less touch-ups than a cheaper paint.

With the screwdrivers, I assumed there was no way to make a bad screwdriver.  I thought a screwdriver was a screwdriver--why pay $5 for 1 when I could get 12 for $1?  I learned the hard way that all screwdrivers aren't created equal.  The same is true with paint.  Good paint will make a difference.  Sure, it will cost more up front, but the value in the long run will be worth it.  Try it.  Just once.  Pick up a high quality paint (RepcoLite, of course) for your next project and see what a difference it makes!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

An Evening of Decorating Tips and Assorted Stuff...

Are you decorating on a budget?  Or, more likely, are you simply not decorating because of a budget?

So often, we convince ourselves that any work we do in our home is going to be expensive and time consuming.  And expensive.  

And often, when we've convinced ourselves of those things, we simply don't start a project, putting it off indefinitely, wishing for the day we could zap some life back into our homes.

If you find yourself in that situation--bored with your home, but not interested in spending a lot of money on a big remodel--then you should look into our FREE (is there a better word in the English language?) Decorating Seminar coming up on October 18, 2012.

The seminar will run from 7:00pm to 8:30pm and will focus on many money-saving decorating tips that will help you pump some life and energy into your home without costing you an arm and a leg.  In fact, many of the projects we'll talk about will cost less than $50, but will produce big-time results in your home.  We'll have ample time for question and answers and we'll also be sure to keep things upbeat and entertaining. 

The seminar--as I've mentioned--is FREE (there's that word again), but space is limited.  If you're interested in attending, please click the link above and fill out the online form to sign-up. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

3M Delicate Surface Tape

Every now and again, a new product enters the home decorating field and changes the way everything is done.  Today I want to very briefly highlight one such product:  3M's Delicate Surface Masking Tape.

Now hold on, don't click away just yet.  I know the very words "masking tape" don't necessarily instill a feeling of raw, unchecked excitement even in the hardiest home decorating gurus, but this tape is different.  It's worth a quick read.  Trust me.  You'll thank me later.

See, 3M's Delicate Surface tape will give you razor sharp, crisp lines when you paint.  Oh, it can be used on all sorts of delicate surfaces including wallpaper and recently painted walls, but for me, the biggest, most important aspect of the tape is the sharp lines it leaves behind.

After all, I hate taping a room off.  I cannot stress this enough.  I hate it.  It's time consuming.  It's no fun (I just want to put paint on, not spend this time taping).  And then, usually, after all that work of taping, I roll my paint on, pull the tape off and discover that there are many areas where the paint leaked under the tape.  My lines aren't crisp.  It's depressing. 

But that's where this particular tape changes the game entirely.  The lines are absolutely razor sharp.  They're perfect.  You can go through all the work of taping your room (which still isn't fun--even with this tape), but the end results make it all worthwhile--no paint leaking under the tape, no wallpaper or wall paint peeling off when you remove the tape.  Nothing but sharp lines and perfect walls. 

Now, of course, the tape is more expensive than regular masking tape--probably a couple bucks a roll more.  But think about it this way:  you're going to spend all that time masking a room with good tape or with cheap tape.  You're going to do all that work painting that room.  You're going to spend all that time pulling the tape off when you're done.  Isn't it worth it to do all of that and end up with perfect results?  Isn't that worth an extra $2? 

OK, that's enough said.  Instead of reading, do a little viewing.  Here's a video that will give you crystal clear proof that this tape's worth the money!  Check it out:

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Paint Colors, Light Bulbs and John Boomsma

The other day, I received a call from the Manager at our Jenison RepcoLite, John Boomsma (see inset).  He had just run into a crazy situation in the store and figured I could make use of the information on our blog.  

John explained that he had received a phone call earlier in the week from a customer who was extremely frustrated.  She was at a loss--didn't know what to do.  See, she had just painted two rooms in her home.  As most people do when getting ready to paint, she had agonized for a few days or weeks over colors. 

Finally, after much effort and after asking her family 100 times which color they liked the most (and then opting for the color she liked the best despite what they said), she painted both rooms.  

And that's when things got weird.

In room 1, she loved the color.  It was perfect.  It blended with the fabrics, the carpet, the trim and so on.  It was exactly the look she had wanted.

However, she was shocked to discover that she hated room 2.  The color looked terrible with the fabrics, the carpet, the trim, and so on. 

The weird thing?  The color was the same in both rooms.  So was the fabric.  And the carpet.  And the trim.  Identical rooms painted with the exact same color out of the exact same gallon and room 1 looked beautiful and room 2 looked terrible.

So she called RepcoLite in Jenison where she bought the paint, wanting to know what was going on.

Now, I'll admit that while John was telling me this story, I was a little intrigued.  These things are sometimes like mysteries and it can be fun and rewarding to puzzle them out and find a solution.  However, I have to be honest:  I wasn't sure, from what I was hearing, what the problem could possibly be.

I assumed maybe a paint color problem.  Maybe the roller she used had paint in it from another job.  Maybe the previous color on the wall was showing through, making the color in room 2 look different.

I had a number of different theories, but then John said "you know what the problem was?  You know what went wrong?"

I waited.  He waited.  (Turns out he wanted me to say "no, I don't know what the problem was" before he'd continue.)  So I admitted ignorance (which made him happy), and he explained, in a single, compound word:  "lightbulbs!"

He went on to explain that the customer had an incandescent lightbulb in room 1--the room she loved.  In room 2, the lightbulb was one of those fluorescent, energy-saving bulbs.  The tone of the light coming from each of those bulbs was enough to visually alter the color on her walls. 

The fix?  Simple:  change bulbs.  

The customer tried the fix and was back in the store a day or so later to report that everything turned out well.  Instead of repainting a room--going through all that work and spending that extra money--all she had to do was change a lightbulb.  

So the point of the story, if it's not obvious, is this:  lighting matters!  Check out your colors in your room, in your lighting before you buy and before you paint.  And likewise, before you give up on a color that you thought you liked but find that you really hate when you see it on your wall, give some thought to the lighting in your room.  Could a simple changing of a lightbulb make all the difference?  It's at least worth a try!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Basketball and Decorating


This is Caleb.  He's short.  I'm about his size. Just fatter.
Not too long ago, we purchased a portable basketball hoop for the kids. We figured we'd all have fun shooting hoops and doing all that "basketball stuff" in our driveway. I assumed it would be a great bonding time, would provide some excercise, and, above all, give us something to do outside.

Well, shortly after we installed the hoop in its place, I realized that it was very likely one of the greatest gifts anybody has ever given to his or her neighbors.  In the history of mankind.  Allow me to explain:

See, I'm short.  Let's just get that out on the table.  And it's not just me.  It's my whole family.  We're all short.  And when we set up that basketball hoop and extended the rim of the basket until it was regulation height, I realized just how short we really were.  We just stood there and watched it go up and up and up until it finally clicked into place.  I wish I had a snapshot of that moment--all of us looking straight up from our humble little positions on earth, some of us squinting.  You would have thought we were watching a comet.  Nope.  Just trying to see the basketball hoop.

Well, the insane height of the basket only frightened me for a minute or two before I steeled my nerves, grabbed the ball and started dribbling it.  It made a satisfying "thump" on the cement.  Made me feel like a man.  

Bouncing the ball, feeling cool, I stepped back a ways, gave myself some space for a good running start, and I took off. My tongue was hanging out in concentration, the ball was thumping against the concrete, my child-like hands were slapping it down, perfectly in-sync with each pattering footstep.  It felt just like what I've seen on TV:  real basketball players, running down the court getting ready to impress. 

My little heart was pounding as I reached that point when I had to jump.  My muscles tensed, my legs coiled and I launched myself into the air.  Flight:  it's a truly amazing thing.  I felt the air whipping through my thinning hair.  My ears popped as I reached heights heretofore never reached.  I felt like superman.  Unstoppable.  And, best of all, it happened in slow-mo.  

Well, in what felt like a long instant replay, I felt myself going up, up, up and I saw the basket get closer and closer and closer.  I reached up with the ball, prepared for the "slam", prepared for the cheering, prepared for the moment of release... and then, suddenly, I was back on the ground again.  The basket was barely visible way up in the sky.  The ball was still in my hand.  My right leg hurt and I had drool on my shirt.  I was sweating. 

Standing there, unsure what to do, I threw the ball as hard as I could into the air and pulled a muscle in my side as I did so.  The ball sailed skyward until it hit the bottom of the net--nuzzling it like a soft breeze--and then it fell back to earth, making an eery, hollow thump on the cement.

And then the kids started laughing.  I was told that in my amazing moment of jumping and "slamming", I had never once been more than 3 inches off the ground. Never once.  I thought I had been soaring, but I'd actually only been skidding along.  

Needless to say, the laughter went on for a while--until they started playing.  Then it quit abruptly because they realized they were no better. 

And from that point on, we've spent many a day running beneath that insanely high (regulation-height) basket, dribbling big basketballs that look oversized in our small, child-like hands.  We run and jump and not a single one of us gets more than 3 inches off the ground.  It's as if we've got invisible rubber bands strapped around our ankles and anchored into the ground.   

And that’s why I say this was one of the greatest gifts a neighbor has given another neighbor ever.  It’s comic relief.  Whenever my neighbors are feeling down or are having a bad day, they just need to look out the window and watch the Hansen family running around the 10 foot tall basket, leaping and jumping and for all that hard work, never once getting more than a few inches off the ground.  It’s absolutely hilarious.  We’re that bad. 

And it’s all because we’re not basketball people.  We’re just not cut out for it.  But even though we stink at it and even though we don’t have very many skills and even though we’re physically not capable of playing the sport competitively (or even casually) . . . we still do it and we still have fun.

And that’s the decorating point today.  So many times, I’ve talked to customers at RepcoLite who are picking out a color to go on their walls that’s the same color as the color already there.  It’s just a new coat--a clean coat--but it’s nothing different.

And they’re bored with it--I can tell that--it’s the same old thing they’ve always done.  But when you ask them and try to get them to step out and try something new, we often hear the same old excuse:  I’m no good at decorating. It’s not my thing.  I don’t know how to do it. 

Well, I’m not good at basketball.  I stink.  And so does my entire family.  And yet, we’ve already made some great memories running around the hoop trying to throw a ball high enough that it has a chance to go in. 

Just because you don’t think you’re good at decorating, don’t let that stop you from trying.  When you step outside of your comfort zone and start trying new things, you’ll discover how much fun it can be to take those plain walls in your home and start turning them into something that reflects who you are, who your family is.  So get going and give it a try.  And if you don’t know where to start, stop out at RepcoLite and let our decorators give you some advice.  You’ll be amazed how much fun the process can be.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Making "Big Red" Red Again

Holland's Big Red Lighthouse, a landmark of the Holland area for years has recently been fading from the bright red icon we're used to seeing at the entrance to the harbor to something more, how shall we put it...pink.

The last paint job on the lighthouse was in 2009 when, according to John Gronberg, secretary and commissioner of the Holland Harbor Historical Lighthouse Commission, "the most expensive paint we've ever used" (not supplied by RepcoLite, for the record!) was brushed and rolled onto the structure. It wasn't long, the harsh weather conditions began to take effect. In the end, that high end and promising coating failed much quicker than expected and the "pinking" of Big Red was well underway.

Three short years later, in 2012, the members Holland Harbor Historical Lighthouse Commission found themselves actively looking for solutions to turn Big Red red again. Happily, working with Lamar Construction, we were able to step in and help.

Check out some photos showing the process and results!














More Info:

Friday, July 27, 2012

5 Tips to Help With Touch-Up Painting

photo by bigstockphoto.com
I received a question in my email the other day regarding touching up some paint on a wall.  The question was a good one and I thought I'd spell out a few simple tips here that will help make your next touch-up job go a little easier.

TIP ONE:  MAKE SURE IT'S THE RIGHT COLOR!

It happens often:  you paint the walls a certain color and then pick up another gallon of paint in a slightly darker color.  It looks great.  Until 2 years later when you grab that darker color by accident and use it to touch up spots on your lighter walls.  Suddenly a quick touch-up project becomes a repaint.  If you've worked with multiple shades of similar colors, never assume that the gallon you grabbed is the right color. Always test a sample in an inconspicuous spot before proceeding!

TIP TWO:  EVEN IF YOU'RE SURE IT'S THE RIGHT COLOR, CHECK IT BEFORE YOU DO ALL THAT WORK!  
What I mean is this:  even if you never used multiple shades as described above and you're absolutely, 100% positive that you are holding the can of the paint you originally used on your walls, you should still check that color.  Yes, it was originally the right color, but things have changed.  The paint on your walls typically darkens and deepens over time.  And even in the most immaculate households, it can sometimes get a little dirty.  What that all adds up to is that the paint on your walls may no longer match the paint in that original can.  So don't do what so many folks do and touch up 27 silver-dollar-sized spots on your wall only to find out the next morning that every single one of them is lighter than the wall paint.  Instead, sample a small area first, allowing the paint to dry down adequately, before you begin touching up.
TIP THREE:  IF THE PAINT'S TOO LIGHT, FIND A SWITCH PLATE!
This tip is pretty self-explanatory but sometimes folks don't realize just how many options are truly open to them.  If you check your color before touching up and discover that it's too light--don't panic.  All you need to do is look for something in your room that has your wall color on it.  This can be a switchplate, a piece of trim, a picture frame or anything along these lines.  If you can't find anything like that, another option is to simply cut a small, shallow hole in your drywall and remove a quarter-sized sample.  Take this sample and bring it to RepcoLite and we'll custom match a color for you so you can accomplish your project.
 TIP FOUR:  PAINT CORNER TO CORNER IF POSSIBLE!
OK, once you have your color figured out, it's time to actually do the work.  And the ideal way to do any touch up is to look for an obvious breaking point in a room and paint a larger section.  What I mean is this:  ideally, don't touch up 25 quarter-sized spots on your walls.  Rather, paint that one wall corner to corner with your new color.  Or paint from your built in cabinet to the doorway.  Basically, look for a breaking point and paint a larger section.  This will help your new paint blend in visually much better and makes the whole process of  touching up much easier.
 TIP FIVE:  SMALL AMOUNTS OF PAINT USING THE ORIGINAL APPLICATION TOOL!
Sometimes, you just don't want to paint corner to corner.  Sometimes you simply want to do the little touch-ups.  When that's the case, here's the best way to tackle it:  First, make sure you use the application tool you used to originally applied the paint.  If you brushed the paint onto the surface originally, then use a brush to do your touch-ups.  If you rolled the paint onto your walls, then use a small roller of similar nap to do your touch-ups.  And, when you're doing these, use small amounts of paint and put some care and effort into feathering them out.
Touching up our walls doesn't need to be complicated.  But it does take a little effort to do it well.  If you follow these tips, you should have no problem pulling it off!

Monday, July 2, 2012

From Our Factory To Your Walls: Our New Commercial!


Our new commercial, highlighting the fact that every gallon (and quart) of RepcoLite Paint is manufactured right here in West Michigan.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

3 Ways to Compromise With Your Kids about Paint Colors

Once upon a time, probably about 6 years ago or so, my wife and I walked with our kids to the Zeeland Bakery.  Caleb (who was 5 at the time) waited outside with me while my wife and the other kids sauntered into the shop and ordered various donuts and cookies and different types of bread.  (It's always a huge undertaking whenever we go to the bakery).

Anyway, while Caleb and I were waiting outside, a lady walked by with a 1-year-old boy in a stroller.  I smiled at the lady and Caleb smiled at the lady and he even went so far as to say "Hello."  I was proud that the little guy was so polite.  And it was this pride which eventually led to my downfall.

See, as the lady was walking away, but while she was still within earshot, I thought I'd demonstrate how polite and kind my little guy was.  So I said, loud enough for the lady to hear, "Wasn't that a nice little boy?"

Oh, it was a question that he should have been able to hit out of the park.  It was an easy one.  A no-brainer.  All he had to say was "Yes Dad, that boy seemed very nice, indeed."  Had he said that, the lady would have thought I was a super parent because I'd raised such a wonderfully polite little lad.  In fact, I figured there was always the off chance that she'd turn her stroller around, shake my hand and ask my advice as to how to raise her own child.

Yes, my mind was brimming with the possibilities and the glory when Caleb spoke up.  He raised his little voice to match my raised voice and suddenly, as is always the case when this kind of thing happens, the entire world quit moving.  Suddenly, there were no cars--no road noise.  The shop doors quit opening and closing.  The clocks that had been ticking ceased their workings for a few split seconds.  Even the birds and the wind and the airplanes and the fountains went silent.  A whisper at one end of Main Street would have been audible at the other.  And it was into this utter and complete silence that Caleb bellowed his answer, informing me, the lady, her poor, poor child and everybody else within earshot that, "No," he didn't think that kid was all that much.  "In fact," he went on to say, "the kid was actually kind of ugly.  His ears were big and his nose was all turned up and his eyes were squinty.  Like a rat."  As if this wasn't bad enough, Caleb ended by informing me (and all of Zeeland) that he had only said "hello" to the kid because "he felt sorry for him."

Well, I just stared at him in horror and disbelief as he continued to rattle off all sorts of uncomplimentary descriptions that reverberated off the buildings and up and down the silent streets.  Silent, that is, except for the wildly squeaking wheels of the lady's stroller as she pushed her child rapidly away from that horrible father and his nasty little son....

I mention this little episode partly as penance but also because it's the perfect example of how kids think and act.  If you ask for a child's opinion, you're going to get it.  They'll typically tell you exactly what they think.  Problem is, while they're usually honest, they don't always exercise the best judgment.

In an earlier article (which you can read HERE), I suggested that it's important to involve your kids in the process of decorating their rooms.  You should let them pick the colors, ask them what they like and what they hope to see in their rooms.  However, when you do that, you're going to have to be ready for some crazy answers from time to time.  In fact, when you ask an 8-year-old what colors he'd like on his walls, don't plan on hearing him say "Oh, a nice medium-beige with an earthy brown would do just lovely."  No, get ready for black and orange (halloween colors).  Or bright blue and red and yellow (Superman colors).  

So, with that said, if you do decide to let them help you decorate their own rooms (which I still believe to be a great idea), you better have a method in mind as to how to incorporate their ideas without completely abandoning the overall look of the room.  You both need to be happy with the outcome.  And that means compromise.  Here are 3 tips:

PICK AN ACCENT WALL
When your kids choose the brightest yellows and oranges, the flashiest greens and blues, a great compromise is to paint one of the walls--an accent wall--with one of those bright, flashy colors.  Have them settle on which color they like best and see if you can't work that into a small wall--a wall with a window or a door.  

Now, in most cases, when you paint an accent wall, you'd pick the focal point of the room to do this with.  In this case, however . . . well, not so much.  If you're trying to minimize the effect of the color, then picking the focal point of the room is the last thing you want to do.  Just pick a small wall--a wall that's not the first thing you see when you walk into the room--and see if you can't put their color there.  They'll be happy, feeling proud when they see their bright wall and you'll be happy because the room doesn't glow like the face of the sun.

PICK MUTED VERSIONS OF THEIR COLOR
Another great compromise that sometimes works in the paint store is to steer kids toward more muted versions of their colors.  If they love bright reds and yellows, maybe throw out some options like a rusty red or terracotta and a more muted yellow.  Sometimes they'll see these new colors and be completely willing to compromise.  Again, with this type of scenario, both of you can potentially reach a mutually happy outcome.

ACCESSORIZE, ACCESSORIZE, ACCESSORIZE
Perhaps the best way of working wild, crazy colors into a decorating scheme is to bring those colors in with accessories.  If your kids want to see black and orange or some other funky combination of colors on their walls, but you can't bring yourself to do it, then offer this:  coat the walls with a nice neutral color and then bring in accessories that fit your child's desired color scheme.  Bring in lampshades with bright colors, find art prints with the colors, switchplates and any number of other accessories that will serve to fill the room with the chosen colors without overloading the walls and driving you crazy.

THE BOTTOM LINE
The bottom line is this:  when you bring your kids into the decorating picture, you've got to be ready to compromise.  Don't let them decide everything when you hate what they're coming up with.  Likewise, don't decide everything yourself when they hate what you're coming up with.  You both have to be happy with the outcome for this little project to work.  If you hate the room, you're always going to feel irritated when you walk past it.  If they hate the room, don't worry, they'll find a way to let you know about it.  

So work together, have fun, and compromise!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Let Them Help: Decorating With Your Kids' Input!

Every now and then I hit upon something that I know is a good idea. And, though this doesn't happen very often, this is one of those times. There's no way around it: decorating your kids' rooms with their help is a great opportunity for you and for them. Oh, I know there are lots of little bugs in the idea and potential complications--but that doesn't change the fact that it's a good thing to do.  

Taking a room that was decorated with younger kids in mind and turning it into "hip, way cool pad" is a great way to let your kids know that YOU know that they're growing up. Taking down the wallpaper borders of stuffed bears and turtles and replacing it with something more age-appropriate will make your kids feel important. And involving them in that process, seeking their input and listening to their suggestions will make them feel that they are on the path to growing up--they're actually an active force in the creation of their new room.

Surprise Makeovers are Cool on TV, But Not So Much In Real Life

If you still need convincing that it's a good idea to involve your kids in the process, then think about it this way: on TV, surprise makeovers are cool. They really are. But that's because we don't normally watch the recipient of the new room beyond their initial reaction. We see them when they first whip off a blindfold and stand blinking and squinting in the bright lights as they try to take in their new surroundings. Everybody's happy and giggly and the show ends. We don't see the couple standing there 12 hours later, now that the cameras and energetic TV personalities are gone, staring at the new walls and wondering what happened and how anybody ever thought that bright orange was a good look.

 

Your kids feel the same way about their room as you would about your home. Their room is their space--their world away from the world, especially as they get older. Just as you wouldn't likely appreciate it if your husband or your neighbor just dropped by one afternoon and repainted your living room in colors of their choosing, neither will your kids necessarily be receptive to the changes you bring about one day while they're off at school. Your vision for their room isn't necessarily their vision for the room. You've got to make it your goal to discover a mutually acceptable vision.

 

Involve Them, But Remember Their Limitations 

To that end, involve them in every aspect of the process. Take them to the store and let them look at colors. Let them flip through wallpaper books and mural books. Let them explore the world of Faux Painting. However, make sure that you keep the outings short and sweet--no marathon shopping trips that will frustrate and wear your kids out. Remember that their attention spans are not like yours--keeping the trips to a limited amount of time will make sure both of you enjoy the outings. And don't forget to think bigger than just a trip to the paint store or the furniture store: try to tie your decorating trips in with a nice dinner out or something like that. 

 

Taking the kids to the paint store and listening to their suggestions and then taking them out to dinner will be one of those special moments kids remember. If you treat their opinions as valid options and listen to their thoughts and take the time to discuss things with them over dinner, they will start to feel like an intricate part in the decision process. And trust me, I may have young kids and I may not have had much experience in the world of psychology, but I know this is a good thing. You don't have to be a genius to see that by involving your kids in something so small as decorating their rooms, you're basically telling them that their opinions matter and that you value their thoughts. 

 

What If . . ? 

Alright, now you're probably thinking that I'm living in a world where everything is puppy dogs and lollipops. Sure it sounds good to involve the kids in the decorating process, but what's going to happen when they pick out Sponge-Bob Yellow and Bright Red for their walls?  We'll cover that in the next post.